For months, technology companies in San Francisco have been struggling with a local ballot that would impose taxes on companies to fund homeless support initiatives.
But last week, this unified front collapsed when Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, the online software company, which is the city's largest private employer, broke out of the crowd. "Homelessness is our responsibility," he tweeted. Then the billionaire pledged $ 2 million to pass the tax measure and criticized his tech mogul counterparts for not taking care of it.
Now, San Francisco's tech community is in turmoil over the initiative, which is known as Proposition C. Nov. 6. Venture capitalists and businesses, including the online startup Stripe, lobbying and donating money to break the tax. And Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, who opposes the measure, has publicly argued with Mr. Benioff. On Friday, Mr. Dorsey tweeted : "We need long-term solutions, not quick actions, to feel good for a moment."
The vitriol among tech managers about The proposal has become "embarrassing," said Scott Wiener, a Democratic senator representing San Francisco and its environs and against the tax. Nevertheless, he praised the companies to become more involved in local politics.
The dispute over Proposition C raises the question of what responsibilities tech companies face for problems in their own backyards. Tech firms are often blamed for fueling inequality and fueling property values with their hefty salary packages for employees, which contributes to homelessness. The question of what these companies owe to their home cities is compounded because many of them have used local tax breaks to fuel their own growth.
The debate is taking place beyond San Francisco and Silicon Valley. In Seattle, Amazon turned in May against a city tax that would have provided services to the homeless. After fierce resistance, the Seattle officials sank it.
In San Francisco, some technology companies, including Mr. Dorsey's Twitter, used tax breaks in 2011 that the city offered to keep them from moving away. In 2012, San Francisco also changed its tax laws by switching from a payroll tax to a gross income tax, a change that favored the tech industry, which recruits extravagantly high-level engineers.
Many of the tech companies that oppose Proposition C declined to comment on the record. A measure designed to reduce homelessness makes it difficult for businesses, especially in a city that is the seventh largest homeless population in the country, behind cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
But in public commentary, Mr Dorsey and others have argued that San Francisco officials, and not companies, are best equipped to cope with homelessness. They said that the city has a new mayor, London Breed, who was elected in June, partly because of her promise to fight the problem, and that she needs time to finish her election campaign. Mrs Breed opposes the measure.
"I am ready to help as long as I can while the mayor is in charge," Mr Dorsey said in an interview. He added that he did not care if he was perceived as opposing support for the homeless, "because it feels like doing the right thing to get the nuances and cause more concern." Taxpayers argue that they are not asking tech companies to develop a strategy to save the homeless. Englisch: emagazine.credit-suisse.com/app/art … = 263 & lang = en. Instead, they simply wanted to raise taxes on companies to fund resources. The extra money from the proposal could total $ 300 million a year, effectively doubling the city's budget for tackling homelessness.
"They are either for the homeless or not," Benioff said in an interview. "Everyone is ready to say that it's a terrible problem and it's getting worse, but only so many are willing to write a check to make it better."
Proposition C was compiled by the Coalition on Homelessness, a local nonprofit group. The measure will finance short-term accommodation, permanent housing and mental health services for the homeless with a gross income tax and a payroll tax for companies over a certain size. The city estimated that almost half of the companies affected by the tax are in engineering and finance.
Sam Lew, political director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said the proposal was a "snap" funding would provide housing.
The measure was qualified in July for the vote of the city. Opinion polls conducted by the opposition campaign in early September revealed that 56 percent of voters supported the tax, but that figure dropped to 47 percent when they received opposition news.
In August, became a manager at Dolby Laboratories, which manufactures entertainment systems. sent an e-mail to more than 30 technology companies in San Francisco about the measure and asked if they intended to take a stand. Other companies in the email included Salesforce, Stripe, Twitter, GitHub, Uber, Lyft, Zendesk, Slack, and Yelp.
Salesforce and Stripe executives said they would most likely decline the move, according to The New York Times emails
In an email, Salesforce's chief of sales, Darryl Yee, said, "I'm in SF Growing up and eager to tackle the problem of the homeless, the city's budget seems to be pretty healthy, we're only 800 Kg. "
Michael Yip, Stripes chief of operations, wrote back that tech companies instead make charitable donations to "In the hope that this will be enough to publicly influence the mayor you resist."
Twitter and Zendesk did not want to comment. GitHub and Lyft did not return requests for comment. Yelp said it was "not active" on the subject.
Some technology companies started to give money for the campaign against the tax. In September, Stripe donated $ 20,000 to the "No on C" efforts. In a editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle this month, his general counsel, Jon Zieger, wrote that "Prop. C will probably hurt more than it helps," because there was no comprehensive plan to address homelessness and that Additional money could not go anywhere.
Patrick Collison, Stripes CEO, later tweeted that the move was "bad policy".
In a statement released Friday, Stripe said that homelessness is complex and that "solutions require careful intervention". She added, "Whoever claims that Prop C is a matter of being for the homeless or against them, sells a simple falsehood."
Earlier this month, Mayor Breed declared that she rejected the proposal and said it tax is irresponsible. "I do not think we will double what we spend on homelessness without new accountability if we do not even spend what we now have efficiently, a good government," she said in a statement.
Mr. Benioff said the first talks within Salesforce focused on being against the tax because "all companies are against all taxes, you study in Business School." But he changed his mind after working with his co-managing director Keith Block, who often met homeless people on his walks.
"We said, you know what, I think we have to support that," said Benioff. He added that homelessness – not taxes – has become an existential threat to business in the city and that Salesforce may have to go ahead if the crisis continues.
On October 8, Mr. Benioff announced his $ 2 million pledge and tweeted his support for the tax.
In response, Mr. Dorsey tweeted his opposition. Mr. Benioff then questioned Mr. Dorsey Philanthropy; Mr Dorsey insisted that Mr Benioff read his arguments again. Dorsey now plans to spend $ 75,000 on the campaign against tax, a spokesperson for Square said. Funding would help spread a more nuanced message about the electoral initiative, Dorsey said.
Stripe has recently donated $ 400,000 to public tax records for its anti-tax campaign. Michael Moritz, a venture capitalist with Sequoia Capital, also reported $ 100,000 in public records. He did not answer a request for a comment.
Cisco Chief Executive, Chuck Robbins, said this week in a statement for Benioff, saying, "We must end the homelessness and housing shortages facing our communities." He said he supports a proposal to finance affordable housing in San Jose, California, where Cisco is headquartered.
In a phone call after her Twitter exchange, Mr Benioff said Mr Dorsey told him that the tax in proposal C was too high. Mr Dorsey said he merely pointed to the disproportionate impact that the tax would have on payment processors like Square. Mr. Benioff estimated that Salesforce would pay $ 10 million a year for the tax; Mr. Dorsey said Square, a much smaller company, would pay $ 20 million. Benioff has since continued to ditch with other technology leaders in San Francisco and their attitude to Proposition C. "They did not know they did not like it until they realized that I supported them," he said.
Mr. Dorsey, when asked if he agreed with Mr. Benioff's characterization of their conversation, replied with a single word, "No."